Notes by Joe McCann
Harty secures maiden national indoor title in considerable style
Kerry Harty improved dramatically on her 2010 performance at the Irish Indoor Championships where she finished in bronze medal position and was crowned 2011 Irish Indoor 3000m Champion at the Odyssey Arena, Belfast. In the 15 lap race, in front of local partisan support the Newcastle athlete found herself racing against the clock after establishing a commanding early lead. Her winning time of 9 minutes, 31 seconds was a massive 8 seconds outside her PB for the distance indoors, but history will record that Harty has at last obtained the title that she has pursued for many years. Fionnuala Brittion had been expected to compete and certainly would have pushed Harty, but she withdrew late, leaving Harty relatively unchallenged. However, the record books will show a maiden Irish Senior title for the much improved international athlete. This will undoubtedly increase her confidence and belief in her ability to compete and win medals at the highest level as the indoor season draws to a close and her focus shifts to the outdoor season.
Totten prepares for Ulster assault
Eoghan Totten also competed in the Newcastle colours at the Odyssey and ran very well in a 3000m heat, falling 5 seconds short of his PB. This will prove a great workout as he turns his attention to the challenge of the Ulster Schools’ Cross Country Championships at Mallusk this week. Eoghan ran an outstanding race at Delamont, taking the race to the highly rated and medal-laden Monaghan twins, and securing an individual silver medal. He will certainly need to perform at least as well again as the level of competition increases as the District qualifiers come together for the Provincial showdown. Totten is certainly capable of winning a medal, but will need to be at his brilliant best to do so. He will be joined by Aidan Hawkins, Ciara Gibson, Chloe Rooney, Megan Rodgers, Catriona, Eilis and Niamh Doyle. On the same day at the same venue Newcastle AC athletes Caolan Hawkins, Gabriel Corrigan, Michaela Quinn and Lucy Kenneally will be running for their schools at the Northern Ireland Primary Schools’ XC Finals.
To the Trassey and beyond
The second long run of the year saw the 8.30 posse head off to the far end of Tollymore before climbing the Trassey Track to the Hare’s Gap. Then it was along the Brandy Pad to the Saddle between Donard and Commedagh before dropping back to Donard Park. In usual fashion there were stories to tell. Myself and Marty McGeown formed an unholy alliance, hell bent on oblitering the field. Initially we were extremely successful and by the Trassey car park McCrickard and McAlinden had had enough and trotted off home for a lie down! The posse then met current Hill and Dale champion Stevie Cunningham and he too found our collective leg power too great, making a feeble excuse at the first opportunity and ambling off alone to contemplate the difficulty he now faces in defending a title he won easily in 2010. Up the steep climb to the Hare’s Gap, McNeilly, McVeigh and the McKibbin twins succumbed to relentless pace and were easily dropped. David Steele continued manfully to hold us off, but alas to no avail. In his gallant efforts he ended up lodged between a rock and a hard place allowing us to triumphantly reach the Saddle with time to spare. On the descent we slowed up considerably to avoid further embarrassment for our colleagues and were greeted by the ever cheerful Marty McVeigh who complimented us on our commitment to running by being out for over two hours on a cold, foggy, windy February morning: the man epitomises club spirit. No doubt there will be club members who will find this incredulous, but believe me I was there and I know what happened. McGeown in now installed as the 4/9 favourite for the 2011 Hill and Dale.
The final race of the McGrady Financial Services Junior Cross Country Series takes place on Saturday 12th March in Tollymore Forest Park. Athletes are asked to register by 10.30am at the latest and the warn up will begin at 10.45am with the whistle blowing for the first race at 11am. The series is delicately poised and while Newcastle currently have the edge in both the Male and Female categories, there is still a chance for East Down to overhaul them. It is also the last chance for runners to complete their series by competing in at least four of the six races. The series prize-giving will take place on 14th March at 7pm at Shimna College. Club Chairman Deon McNeilly, an athlete with an outstanding pedigree over 30 years of running will be the keynote speaker and no doubt inspire the younger runners with his tales of races over the years. Local Physio Marty Smith from Move Physiotherapy will also talk to the junior runners about the important issue of injury prevention. Kerry Harty will also be there to show her recently acquired Irish Indoor Championship medal and assist with the presentations. Further details of the races and presentation are available on the club website (www.newcastleac.org)
Best wishes to ‘Big’ Alan
Finally the club would like to extend their best wishes to ‘Big’ Alan Strachan as he takes up a new role in Sweden. His loping stride and lack of use of the left arm as he runs will be sadly missed on the roads and surrounding environs of the greater Newcastle area. No doubt he will continue his running journey abroad and we wish him every success as he prepares for another London Marathon without the company and of his erstwhile colleagues. We are all confident that a sub-2:50 is well within his grasp. For the foreseeable future he will not have to negotiate the start-time with Damien; ‘Is 8.45 ok for you D?’ ‘Could you go at 8.43: 29 Alan and I’ll only be doing 12.46 with you as the couscous will need to be forked at precisely 10.26am?’ No wonder the Stracman is boarding a plane to Sweden, though no doubt he will be keeping up to date via the website and the weekly club notes!